Fun and Games

Last night I attended my first scrutiny committee as a councillor – looking at the work of the Culture and Environment department.

As the name suggests, this covers a wide range of issues like Libraries and sports centres, waste collection and parking, but also covers important areas like regeneration, the third sector and public protection.

And it includes the Olympics.

We took the first of what will probably be many reports on the Olympics at the meeting. We haven’t secured any events for the borough (boo) but have bid to host a stage of the Torch relay (yay). Whilst a lot of the discussion centred on the staggeringly huge impact the Olympics will have on the capital (the latest Visit London models run to about an additional 1m visitors to the capital during the Games period apparently), there was also talk of the opportunities for local businesses that all those extra wallets and purses might create.

As a new councillor, spending time scrutinising the work of a department is great, because it gives you a perspective on Borough-wide issues as well as more knowledge of areas that might not be a priority for you and your ward.

But it pays to be a bit parochial every so often. So I had to use the opportunity to ask how we could make sure that the potential wealth from the Olympics was really spread, past Kings Cross and Camden Town, to NW6. To be fair, Cllr Linda Chung did her bit for her own ward of Hampstead too.

Whilst the reaction we got from officers and Cllr Tulip Siddiq, our Cabinet Member for Culture was very positive, it still remains to be seem how best this can be achieved.

The good thing about scrutiny is that you often get – indeed, you’re meant to have – more than one bite of the cherry. I’m sure this is a subject to which we’ll return.

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